Zlatan Ibrahimović is sidelined for AC Milan again, the experienced striker suffering the latest in a series of injuries as the Serie A leaders struggle to score goals ahead of Friday’s encounter against Genoa.
Ibrahimovic’s body appears to be giving up on him at 40 years old, with a left knee ailment the latest issue in a season in which he has scored eight league goals while only playing 11 matches and missing half of the season.
Even Francesco Totti, who was pulled from the field kicking and screaming, has suggested that the Swede “listen to his body” before deciding whether or not to continue.
Zlatan Ibrahimović will be out for “another week to ten days,” according to Milan coach Stefano Pioli, which means he will miss not just Genoa but also the second leg of the Italian Cup semi-final against local rivals Inter Milan on Tuesday and the difficult journey to Lazio next weekend.
“We’re hoping he’ll be able to play the rest of the season,” Pioli told reporters.
“Physical issues occur in everyone… In terms of his future, I don’t believe anything has changed. I’m confident that he’ll make the correct decision, and whatever he decides, we’ll support him.”
Due to Ibrahimovic’s absences, coach Stefano Pioli has few choices upfront, with Olivier Giroud starting at center-forward for a club that has preserved six consecutive clean sheets in all competitions while scoring only four goals.
Inter has gained the upper hand in a four-way title fight that appears poised to go down to the wire, with the champions two points behind the leaders but with a game in hand in two weeks.
Milan might even be in second place by the time they kick-off at the San Siro on Friday evening when Simone Inzaghi’s side takes on Spezia in the weekend’s first encounter.
And the pressure is on for the seven-time European champions, who are trailed by Napoli, who are level on points with Inter heading into Saturday’s home meeting against Europe-chasing Roma, and Juventus, who are only six points behind them with six games remaining.
“If we’re still chasing the title and the cup, that indicates everyone has given it their all. However, we require that extra push “Pioli stated.
“We have the talent to rack up a lot of points between now and the season’s end.”
Player to watch: Rafael Leao
If Milan wants to keep their league lead, Portugal attacker Leao will be crucial in getting them back on the scoresheet, as the 22-year-old has stepped up his game this season and has been at the heart of his team’s most aggressive displays.
Genoa is facing relegation and will most likely be conservative, a tactic that has frustrated Milan so often against weaker opponents this season that it could cost them their first league title since 2011. Breaking them down will require someone with Leao’s imaginative abilities.
4 – With six games remaining four teams have a chance of bagging the Scudetto.
8 – Zlatan Ibrahimović and Giroud have scored the same number of Serie A goals this season.
Fixtures (times GMT)
Spezia v Inter (1700), AC Milan v Genoa (1900)
Cagliari v Sassuolo (1130), Sampdoria v Salernitana, Udinese v Empoli (1230), Fiorentina v Venezia (1430), Juventus v Bologna (1630), Lazio v Torino (1845)
Napoli v Roma (1700), Atalanta v Verona (1900)